Book Review – The Hunger Games

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the hunger games book review

Today we’re going to review The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I read The Hunger Games for the first time when I was 17 or 18 years old. I’ve read The Hunger Games many times since then, but not any time super recently. There was a good amount that I forgot. I enjoyed this re-read and I think that a lot of the story still holds up. I had a great time reading it. I’m going to be talking about it in detail, spoilers for all. If you don’t have any intention of rereading the series before the next book comes out, hopefully, I can give you a good refresher.

Either way, let’s chat. One thing that I really appreciateabout this book is the amount of time that Suzanne Collins takes to begin her story. There’s so much content packed in these less than 400 pages, but at the same time, it’s such a slow yet engaging beginning.

I really think that Susan Collins did a fantastic job with this book. The narrative pros definitely don’t hold up over time. But I do think that a lot of it does. We started off in District 13 which is not awesome. Dying of starvation is a normal thing there. If you get to live to have grey hair and wrinkles, then you’re considered extremely blessed and people ask what your secret is for a long life because it’s just not expected there. I really loved starting out by seeing her love and her affection for Prim, getting many lines that indicate how hardened she’s become and how much she’s just accepted the way of life when she’s out in the woods with Gale and Gale’s just ranting about the Hunger Games and the Capitol and Katniss lets him rant so that he can get it all out in the woods and not say anything in town, but at the same time, she’s thinking, “What’s the purpose of this? I agree with everything you’re saying, but what do we gain by saying it,” because she’s just accepted her life here.

I find the dynamic of Pan-Am interesting. I do wonder what the rest of the world looks like because Pan-Am is North American now according to this book or not now, but now for the book. I do wonder what the rest of the world is doing while Pan-Am is facing children against each other to the death while they watch on TV. I’m still very interested in this world and the different districts and how they function around the Capitol. I appreciate how much time we got to get to know life within District 13 before the Hunger Games begin. The drawing happens. Prim’s name is chosen. Katniss, of course, the one person that Katniss would sacrifice herself for because she knows Prim won’t survive in the arena, so she volunteers as tribute and then the boy with the bread, the one who saved her life when her mom wasn’t functioning, is the second name that’s chosen, which is a bumski for her.

I think that one way that this book is lacking is in the depth of the characters. I think that Katniss is very well done. I do think that Peeta isn’t built up incredibly well. He’s interesting-ish. He has a great sense of humour and he has what comes off to be a fantastic sense of integrity and patience for those around him. I appreciate him, but I really don’t know much about him or feel like there’s very many dimensions to him. He’s a nice guy who has a good sense of humour, who loves Katniss and that’s pretty much all we get out of him. I would like to know more about him, but that’s part of the limitations of just being strictly in Katniss’s head and being in the head of a character that is so– Well, she is self-centred, it’s understandable. I get it. I get why she is so inward-facing and so determined to just focus on what she needs because of the situation that she is in. It’s a reality of it. We don’t really get to know other characters with any depth because Katniss doesn’t care to know people with any depth except for Prim.

Once again, we’re given so much time within the preparation for the arena before we even enter into the arena, which it’s funny because when I look at this book, I think of the arena, I think of the Hunger Games, but so much time I spent before the Hunger Games begin. We watch her get changed a lot by her prep team. We see her get to know Cinna, I think is how you say his name, as well as constantly argue and butt heads with Haymitch. One thing that I’ve noticed, I mentioned this in a recent article that when I first read these books, I was team Gale. Since then through my mini re-reads, I have since become team neither and I think that Katniss does better on her own. A lot of people agree with that. That’s not an original thought, but then there’s also so many people that every time I say that Katniss should have ended up single, I get so many comments of people telling me I’m wrong and Peeta was perfect for her, we’ll get there.

I’m trying to go into this book with a fresh perspective and with a non-biased attitude and just objectively see how Katniss seems to feel about the people around her. I’m reserving judgment at the moment, but that’s how I came into this book, how I felt about it before. Coming into it with a fresh perspective, coming into it trying to not have any biases and just see what the story presents. One thing that I noticed is it’s not surprising that Katniss didn’t understand that Peeta’s feelings for her were real. I remember when I first read the books as a 17-year-old or however old I was, it was a YA book, so it had romance in it, it’s standard. You got to have a romance. I was looking for the romance. I thought it was Gale. I was on board with Gale. Then I saw it was Peeta. I was like, “All right, win me over,” obviously he’s going to be a love interest too because that’s what I was conditioned to I believe in what I was reading. I thought Katniss was being dumb by not realizing that Peeta’s feelings were genuine.

Honestly, it’s not that surprising because the amount of time that Katniss and Peeta spend together or having conversations is so limited. Peeta gave her that bread or took a beating so that he could give her that bread when she was about to starve, and he did it because even back then he had these strong feelings for her, but she didn’t know it. He never tried to tell her. He was too shy to ever approach her. He wanted to work up the courage to approach her, but he never did. They had no relationship whatsoever within District 13, then they both get chosen and they really don’t interact at all during their prep. They agreed to be trained together, but most of their interactions are pretty strained because they’re under a lot of pressure and some bad things are happening to them, so it’s a lot of snipping at each other. It’s like Katniss saying she doesn’t have any skills and then Peeta getting irritated and saying she’s amazing with a bow. Yes, she does. Then her getting irritated and saying he won every wrestling tournament that we have in District 13, he has skill too, and they’re constantly sniping at each other. Even when they have to present a united front because that’s their image, they have to be training side by side and they present themselves together and interact smiling and happy.

Every time the cameras go dim, that ends, not because of Peeta necessarily, like Peeta will continue joking with her and she’ll laugh and then she’ll think, “No, we’re competitors. We might have to kill each other. We shouldn’t do this,” which is such a reasonable reaction. She says it, she says, “Don’t. Let’s not pretend when the cameras are off, let’s just not interact when the cameras are off. ” Peeta agrees to that because what are you going to do? Up to this point, they really don’t have very many good interactions. The only good interaction they have before the arena is right before they go into the games and they go up onto the roof and Peeta tells her that he wants to maintain who he is within the arena and Katniss doesn’t get it. Even that is such a brief conversation. There’s no reason that she should suspect that he has any feelings for her whatsoever. Even when he admits his love for her and she freaks out and pushes him and he falls and slices his hands open on the pot, even at that point, she still thinks it’s part of the game. Haymitch also plays it up as if it’s just an act because he’s trying to prep Katniss to accept all this and Peeta even says she’s just mad because she thinks her boyfriend will be upset about me professing my love for you.

There’s no reason for her to think anything. Anyway, I’m going to come back to this. Let’s just get inside the arena. We’re officially in the arena. Katniss wants to go after the bow and arrow because it’s what she feels is her best chance at survival, but Peeta distracts her and gives her a motion saying like, “Don’t do it.” Then she doesn’t and she makes away with just a small pack. The arena, of course, is my favourite part of the book. It’s so interesting despite being so terrifying.

Actually, before we get too deep into the arena, I forgot to mention Katniss and her prep team. I really appreciate that even though it’s not a very exciting part of the book, because it gives such a good glimpse of how oblivious the Capitol people are in that they are so selfish constantly thinking about what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling. They’re excited for Katniss because in their minds, “Oh, this is great, you’re going to be in the games, this is good for you,” without even realizing how horrible it is. It’s interesting how oblivious they are to the reality of what’s happening, and yet how bloodthirsty they are because they’re excited about the games and excited about the absolute torture that these people go through. I find that dynamic so interesting, and I appreciate that we got to explore that even just a little bit.

Okay, back into the arena. The arena is great. I love watching Katniss trying to survive. I think survival stories are some of the most interesting to read in general, and watching Katniss try to survive is fascinating. We have the tracker jacker scene where Rue shows her that the tracker jackers are right above her. She saws away while the anthem is playing and drops them on the Careers and Peeta. She gets stung as well. The Careers run away and try to get to the water. Katniss starts hallucinating, and then Peeta comes back and realizes that Katniss is still there, and instead of killing her tries to get her to leave and ends up taking a hit from Cato because of it. Katniss makes it out alive, she teams up with Rue.

Rue, they become a team, share their supplies, Rue becomes her little Prim standing basically, and they go and blow up the supplies. Man, did I love that scene. The Careers have built up this massive mountain of supplies. They allowed one kid to survive so that he could dig up the platforms that they stand on that are explosive. He planted them around the supplies so that no one could get to the supplies, but he didn’t think it through enough and one of them goes off, all the supplies die too. Katniss blows them up and, ah, it’s so nice. I love that Katniss gets a genuine injury from this that affects her hunting, that affects her well-being, her ear now being half-deaf, partially-deaf.

I don’t really remember. Not having a full hearing in one ear is huge for her as a hunter and huge for her being in the games. She’s also just in general banged up from being so close to the explosion. This also changes the game because now the Careers aren’t in such a great spot. They have to start surviving instead of just living off of all this stuff, which is a big deal because they’ve never had to survive before. They’ve always just lived. We have the scene with Rue which I frankly don’t want to talk about because it hurts. It’s such a sad scene, so hard to read. I love her, I’m glad Katniss honoured her. We move forward because it hurts too much to talk about.

Next big thing that happened within the arena was that they got the announcement that if you’re in the same district, then you can win together. We can have two winners this year. So Katniss calls out Peeta’s name and then starts hunting him down. This is awesome because Katniss genuinely does think that Peeta is a good person. She does have some sort of affection toward him, but also she just knows that if she doesn’t team up with the other tribute of her district and she continues to try to kill him or abandon him despite him being injured, it’s not going to be easy going home. This is where she catches up with him, he reminds her that she should probably go ahead and kiss him because they’re supposed to be in love. Then they finally start talking and bonding for real. This is the point where Haymitch starts sending her messages of, “Give him a kiss, play up the romance, and then you get your prizes. Then you get your donations from your sponsors.” She starts playing it up because she thinks, “This is how I survive.” Peeta embraces it fully because this is what he’s always wanted.

Now let’s go back to talking about Katniss and the romance and what I noticed this time around. Again, I don’t think Katniss was being dumb or obtuse by not picking up on the fact that this was real for Peeta. They had so little interaction outside of the arena. Then as soon as they got in there, what’s the first thing Peeta does? Teams up with the Career tributes to hunt her down. Granted he did spare her life/save her life when the tracker jackers got everybody and it was chaos, but that was a weird instance for her. Not another clue on top of other clues. It was an isolated thing that was confusing in the mindset of, “This is a guy I’ve barely interacted with and he seems nice, but so what?” Then she’s playing up the romance because that was their tactic from the start. Of course, that’s what we need to be doing and she just thinks he’s a good actor.

Honestly, I don’t blame her for any of this with how little interaction they’ve had up to this point it’s not surprising that she doesn’t think, “This is genuine. He’s in love with me even though we’ve hardly ever talked.” Peeta is bad sick and probably going to die, so then they find out about the Cornucopia, everybody’s being called back, they have medicine for Peeta. Have I called him Peter a few times? His name is Peeta. Anyway she goes back so that she can get the medicine for Peeta. Clove, I think was her name, tackles her, gets her down to the ground, is going to torture her and peel her lips off with her knife, but first she mentions Rue. This sets Thresh off. Thresh is also from District 11, and here’s my hot take now that I’m reading The Hunger Games. I still at this point am team Katniss, lives alone because that’s how she seems to want to be, but my favourite fella in the book, not for Katniss, just in general, is Thresh. He seems like such a genuinely good guy. He goes into evasive mode as soon as he gets into the arena. He goes into the wheatfields and just survives out there because he knows how because he’s District 11. When it’s time for the Cornucopia, he doesn’t engage. He stays behind and he plans on just getting his pack and leaving, but then when he hears what Clove is saying about Rue and he realizes that this little girl from his district was potentially tortured just like she’s about to torture Katniss, he loses it, kills Clove, turns to kill Katniss, but then once he finds out what Katniss did for her, he lets her go.

I love this character so much. I’m sad he’s gone. I’m sad we never got any more from him. Anyway, Thresh then took both backpacks from- he took District 1 and District 11. Cato took off into the grain with him. I’m mad that he won, but I’m also happy that he won because that means that Cato was the one that had to deal with the mutts and not Thresh, but it’s not a fate for anyone. Now let’s go ahead and fast-forward to the mutts. Peeta is doing better, still injured but livable, he can live. They get to the Cornucopia again, but this time it’s not to face off against Cato. This time it’s to face off against the mutts. They get on top of the Cornucopia. The mutts have the eyes and the fur, look and texture of the dead tributes, it’s very disturbing. Cato grabs Peeta and is choking him to death. Katniss shoots Cato in the arm. Cato falls over the Cornucopia and the mutts massacre him for hours. They destroy him to where he’s barely recognizable when Katniss sees him, but they won’t kill him because one, according to Katniss, this is the last, say, an entertainment according to the Capitol’s sick bloodlust, and two, because it’s got to be one of the tributes that finish him off.

The book says that he goes from crying out in pain to crying for help to just whimpering. By the time Katniss finally hangs over the edge to put an arrow through him, she says that she’s pretty sure that lump of meat that was Cato, she’s pretty sure that what he says to her is, “Please,” because, at this point, he just wants out. Honestly, it’s so disturbing. I forgot that this book really goes there. Between Rue’s death and between Cato’s death, I cannot believe that this book– Anyway, Cato is finally gone. The Gong thingy isn’t ringing, nothing’s happening. Then they finally get the message, “Sorry, we checked the rules. You guys can’t survive. Have fun killing each other.” This is when Peeta reaches for his knife, and Katniss, she doesn’t immediately try to kill him. She at first is just like, “Well, what do we do now?” Peeta says, “Well, it was always going to end like this. We really should’ve known, we shouldn’t be surprised.” Reaches for his knife and then Katniss reaches for her bow and arrow, gets ready to shoot him, and then by the time she’s got her bow and arrow ready, Peeta has already dropped the knife to the ground and he just raises his eyebrows and looks at her and she feels terrible.

This one line, I’m going to see if I can find it because man, I thought it was so good. After he drops his knife, he says, “No, do it.” Peeta limps toward me and thrust the weapon back in my hands. “I can’t,” I say, “I won’t.” “Do it before they send those mutts back or something. I don’t want to die like Cato,” he says. “Then you shoot me,” I say furiously shoving the weapon back at him. “You shoot me, go home and live with it,” and as I say it, I know death right here right now would be the easier of the two. “You know I can’t, “Peeta says discarding the weapons. “Fine, I’ll go first anyway,” he leans down and rips the bandage off his leg, eliminating the final barrier between his blood and the earth. “No, you can’t kill yourself,” I say, on my knees, desperately plastering the bandage back onto his wound.”Katniss,” he says, “it’s what I want.” “You’re not leaving me here alone,” I say because if he dies, I’ll never go home. Not really. I’ll spend the rest of my life in this arena. Trying to think my way out.

I think the action and the pacing and the emotion of this book holds up, but also there are so many lines that have true depth to them that just make me stop and go, man, that conversation, “Then you kill me. You go home and live with it.” Realizing that would be the worst fate of the two for sure. Realizing that if I leave this arena right now, if I kill you and leave, I will spend the rest of my life trying to think my way out of it.

Man, that’s real stuff and I’m just so impressed. Like I said, there’s certain things that don’t hold up with this book, but there’s so many things that even now reading it as a 27-year-old, having read a lot more books, I still look back at these books and I’m like, man, the emotion and the experience are still there and it’s really impressive. The book ends with her admitting to him or just bringing up that Haymitch was giving her signals throughout the games and that this was all just a game or this was all just an act, and then realizing that it never was for Peeta, him being disappointed, but him as always handling it like a champ and just saying, “All right, well, I guess that’s just how it is then.” It wasn’t a really exciting ending, honestly, between them going back into the interview and having to play it up. Then they’re going to go visit the districts.

The last couple of chapters were an odd way to end it, but that’s all right. It tried to build up to book two. I know book two has a lot of mixed opinions out there. Some people think it’s just a rehash of book one and it was definitely a middle book syndrome. I personally have always loved book two on the same level as I love book one because I think that it was just as impactful and exciting as book one. I’m excited to see what I think now on this re-read. I have always hated book three and once again, I’m excited to see how I feel on this re-read because I have changed my opinions before. I’m going straight into book two, so I hope that you’ll hang out with me for more long reviews. That was my review and discussion of book one in The Hunger Games trilogy.

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